Today I share the next author interview and book giveaway in the Backdoor Survival Summer Book Festival. Brett Markham, the author of The Mini Farming Guide to Composting shares his answers to my questions and is also providing one of my readers with a free copy of his book.
Before we begin, I would like to announce the winners of last week’s giveaway packages. The packages include a copy of Creek Stewart’s book, The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide, a Willow Haven Outdoor Logo Sling Pack, a 100% cotton Willow Haven Outdoor Survival Bandanna and a Multi-Functional Survival Tool with built in lanyard, compass, ferro-rod, whistle and water-proof container for storing matches or other survival kit items.
The winners are “Christine R” and “Kathy W”. Congratulations! I have contacted you by email with instructions for claiming your winning package.
Be sure to check out the details of this week’s giveaway below.
Tell me about your book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting. What is it about?
The Mini Farming Guide to Composting is the fifth book in my series on Mini Farming and self-sufficiency. Back in 2006 I started work on the series because I could see that the future economic prospects for people were declining in aggregate with no end in sight. Because I was foreseeing a long period of economic decline rather than a short term emergency, I felt that helping people develop the means for long-term self-sufficiency was the best way to be helpful.
At the very bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you find things such as food, so that is where I started. Sometimes I hate being right, but I was right. We have 23 million Americans currently underemployed or unemployed, 15% of Americans are on food stamps, wages for most people have remained stagnant or declined for over a decade, and costs for heating oil, food and fuel keep increasing. Even fully employed people are being squeezed.
Composting is a key component to making a Mini Farm self-sufficient because it recycles and retains nutrients while enhancing soil fertility. This reduces the need for external sources of fertility such as fertilizer, and therefore decreases expenditures while increasing the overall productivity and net economic value of a Mini Farm.
In my first book in the Mini farming series I described the standard method of composting, which is a frequently turned hot pile. But as I gained insight from the experiences people shared with me, I learned that people wanted more than just that one technique.
Many people have back problems or are busy working jobs that won’t let them shovel literally tons of compost. A lot of people live in parts of the country where it is impractical to add materials to an outdoor compost pile in the winter, so they needed better indoor methods. Also, I found that a lot of people really needed more information on the biology of composting.
Finally, the prevalence of natural disasters that interrupt supplies of running water and electricity demonstrated a need for information on maintaining sanitary conditions for waste even during long periods when the services we normally expect in civilization are unavailable.
The Mini Farming Guide to Composting starts with perhaps the most comprehensive guide to soil fertility available outside of college textbooks, and includes methods of managing biological fertility as well as micronutrients needed for human health. It then describes the biology and chemistry of compost and goes into a variety of methods for indoor and outdoor composting as well as handling human waste, compost tea and vermicomposting.
What type of research did you have to do while writing The Mini Farming Guide to Composting?
I did a lot of hands-on testing for my methods of indoor and outdoor composting over a period of several years, but because I wanted to deliver the best available information to my readers, I did a lot of bacterial cultures (some of which are illustrated in the book), plus did research through the state on disposal of drugs via composting. Because some methods of composting are inherently slow, it took a year to have everything done. Of course, as a Mini Farmer, a lot of my research has been ongoing for many years as I have continually refined and improved processes and information.
How long did it take to write?
With this type of book it is hard to distinguish between writing, building and researching. Once I sat down to write it, it didn’t take long – maybe six months. But the real tough part isn’t really in the writing so much as deciding what is important, how it should be organized, and double-checking research to make sure the book is as valuable as I’d want. My name goes on it, so I want it to be something one of my high school teachers would give an A. I think about a book and do research for a long time before I start writing.
Every book, fiction and non-fiction, includes a message. What message do you hope my readers will take with them after reading The Mini farming Guide to Composting?
You CAN. Though there are also secondary messages in my books, “You CAN” is my primary message. I grew up in a self-sufficient culture where most people hunted, fished, grew gardens and preserved food. It was an accepted way of life and it was taken for granted that everyone knew how to slaughter a chicken. But when I moved to the Northeast I quickly discovered whole generations of people who were so far removed from these skills that they were literally afraid they would kill their family with botulism if they ever tried to can their own food.
A lot of the questions I get from my website pertain to the safety of various practices, including composting. People are afraid composting won’t work or they will breed some sort of superbug if they do it wrong.
My books teach people not just step-by-step stuff, but also the underlying ideas, philosophy and science so they can be completely confident in undertaking their own self-sufficiency. You CAN raise your own food, preserve your own food, ferment your own food, cook your own food and so forth. In The Mini Farming Guide to Composting I give people the facts, techniques and research to show that they CAN make compost safely in a variety of ways and enhance the wellbeing of their families.
The secondary message in my books is to question what you think you know – to question the conventional wisdom – and to subject even your own beliefs to scrutiny. People build cages around themselves with myriad untested assumptions, and if they were to ever test those assumptions they’d discover their cages are self-imposed and they are more capable than they ever believed.
The tertiary message, which is a running undercurrent, is to turn off the screens in your house. When I advocate composting, growing your own food or making your own wine, I am not telling people to take that time away from paying work. Instead, with the average American spending 35 hours a week in front of a screen outside of work, I’m saying to recoup some of that time spent with mediocre entertainment and invest it in something that pays you back with dividends.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
People are complicated but think they are simple. I am a combination of nature – that is, the wonderful genes I got from my parents, nurture – predominantly my home environment — and my own self-directed evolution. Nature and nurture both have a role in defining us, but we also have a role in defining and refining ourselves in our own vision.
I grew up in Southwestern Virginia where I had a reasonably normal life. My mother couldn’t be there, but my father and step mother did the best they could. My father really emphasized both self-sufficiency and helping others. I had a large extended paternal family with tons of uncles, aunts and cousins. Everyone in my family grew up playing musical instruments and learning martial arts, so I’m both a musician and a martial artist.
When I was 9 I decided I wanted to learn everything, so had read through the perspectives in a couple sets of encyclopedias by the time I was 10. Learning everything about everything has been a constant theme in my life since childhood and it’s something my family supported. I discovered that the more I learned, the more avenues were available to me for helping people and solving problems.
I went off to college and studied engineering and today I work as a Network Engineer Director for a cable company, though my formal education is in electrical engineering. I have a love of science and though I keep people out of it for safety reasons I have a pretty decent biology and chemistry laboratory that I use for enhancing my knowledge and testing ideas. I’m a ham radio operator and have several antennas on my Mini Farm. I enjoy hunting for food and the hunting near where I live is excellent. (I hunt only for food – not for sport.)
I have a daughter from my first marriage and I remarried eleven years ago. My wife enjoys the high quality food that comes from our farm and helps with the chores and proof-reads most of my books. My daughter from my first marriage (who is featured in some illustrations in my books) also enjoys the food but is less inclined toward healthy farm work. She does, however, understand the nature of labor markets and thus negotiates a wage for her work.
Do you have plans for another book?
Yes. After five books in the Mini Farming series, I believe that I’ve imparted everything people need to know about composting, growing their own food, preserving their food, fermenting their food and a host of other things. I think it’s time to give that topic a rest except for a couple of revisions here and there to take into account changes in the state of the art and the regulatory environment.
Mini Farming was really a revolutionary idea because it aimed toward taking small land areas and operating a home garden as an economic and self-sufficiency powerhouse instead of a hobby with rather iffy economics. Mini Farming, as an idea, came about as a result of questioning everything, and resulted in a set of ideas that really helps people.
Now I am ready to tackle a new field that is important to human health: diet and exercise. Your health is the springboard for self-sufficiency and everything else in your life. Diet and exercise are the core of your health. By questioning everything, I have concluded that the conventional wisdom has a lot to do with our current epidemics of obesity, type-II diabetes and autoimmune disorders. I believe the conventional wisdom biases almost all attempts at improving diet and fitness toward failure, but that there are simple ways around the roadblocks. One of my strengths is integrating information from disparate fields into a unified vision with simple principles, and I plan to do this with diet and exercise.
Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
You can. I incorporate a fair amount of science in my books to make sure people see the underlying principles so they can apply the ideas flexibly in a changing environment rather than just practicing what I teach by rote. But it’s important to understand that in practice this stuff is easy and uncomplicated. A lot of the things in my books were broadly practiced by my paternal grandmother whose formal education stopped in the 4th grade. You don’t need to be built like a professional wrestler or have a Ph.D. in Soil Science to grow better food than even a millionaire’s money can buy. All you need to do is decide you are going to do it.
THE BOOK GIVEAWAY
A copy of Brett’s book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard has been reserved for one lucky reader. This weeks question is this:
What, in your opinion, is the biggest mistake you have made relative to your prepping?
To enter, respond in the comments area at the end of this article. The deadline is 6:00 AM Pacific next Friday. A winner will be selected at random using tools on the random.org website.
Note: If you are reading this article in your email client, you must go to the Backdoor Survival website to enter this giveaway in the comments area at the bottom of the article.
THE FINAL WORD
Do you compost? I have been an off-again on-again composter, mostly due to lack of space. As Brett says, however, YOU CAN and so can I. I promise to do better. It is a shame not to put those coffee grounds, eggs shells, and fruit and veggies scraps to good use in the garden.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Composting has never been easier—learn how to incorporate Brett Markham’s amazing composting techniques to maximize your vegetable output, increase your self-sufficiency, and be kind to the ecosystem.
This handbook covers everything you need to know about composting. Whether it’s your mini farm or flower garden that needs nourishment, this book explains how to compost just about anything you can grow—and reminds you that developing your own composting practices can not only be fun but saves money and encourages self-sufficiency. Learn to make a backyard compost structure with easy-to-follow directions and learn the science behind how your food scraps become food for plants.
Bargain Bin: Listed below are all of the books in the Backdoor Survival Summer Reading List. There are both fiction and non-fiction titles and a bit of something for everyone. Also, some of these books are Kindle e-books but you do not need a Kindle to read Kindle e-books. Simply download the free Kindle app from the Amazon site and you are good to go.
THE BACKDOOR SURVIVAL SUMMER READING LIST – NON-FICTION
The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide
The Mini Farming Guide to Composting
Meals in a Jar: Quick and Easy, Just-Add-Water, Homemade Recipe
Fight, Flight, or Hide. The Guide to Surviving a Mass Shooting
Don’t Be A Victim!: An Officer’s Advice on Preventing Crime
Emergency Air for Shelter-in-Place Preppers and Home-Built Bunkers
Real Time Machines: The Future is an APP
Survival Medicine Handbook
Guns Across the Border: How and Why the US Government Smuggled Guns into Mexico
Spiraling Downward: Thinking About and Planning for Economic Collapse
THE BACKDOOR SURVIVAL SUMMER READING LIST – FICTION
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more. They are currently selling their Freeze Dried Tomatoes for $25.99, a discount of over 40% off the normal price of $43.95 for a #10 tin.
Tomatoes are good to have on-hand in your food storage for your favorite recipes. They are easy to store and rehydrate anytime you need them and are great for adding versatility to your home food supply. I use them in chili, sauces and soups.
Another special this month is the Freeze-Dried Uncooked Salmon which is an amazing $20.99 per can which is 58% off the normal price of $50.95.
In the gear department, the Katadyn Vario Microfilter Water Filtration System is 26% off at $69.99. My favorite emergency radio, the Kaito Voyager is only $39.99 this month. Don’t let the picture fool you – this radio is quite compact and light weight and it works great – even in hand crank mode.
There are a lot more items on sale this month – be sure to take a peek.
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Amazon has a cool feature called Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items. This is an easy tool for finding products that people are ‘wishing” for and in this way you know what the top products are. Like I said, very cool.
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11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life: This little book will provide you with the motivation to get started or stay on track with a self-reliant life. 11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life, co-authored with my long time pal, George Ure (www.urbansurvival.com), and can purchased from Amazon.
This month my friends at Survival Life are offering their Survival Seeds Playing Cards for free. The only hitch is that you must pay $2.95 in shipping charges.
These cards are pretty cool – with each card showing all of the information you need to know about how to grow, harvest, and prepare 52 nutrient-rich vegetables and herbs from seeds.